Poll Results; New Poll; Subscribers Up; Facebook; Twitter; Ning

The number of subscribers to this blog is rapidly growing. The subscription is absolutely free and you can subscribe by email or through an RSS feed in a reader, or if you have your own blog or website, you can grab a widget (or "blidget.") Just click on the corresponding area on the left hand side of the blog. Thank you to all of our subscribers; the number of subscribers helps with credibility in the blogosphere. We have a very diverse group of special ed stakeholders reading this blog. I have heard from parents, teachers, related service providers, school district administrators, lawyers for both sides, state DOE staff, law professors, special ed professors, advocates, group representatives, and adults with disabilities who have been through the IEP process. Thanks everybody, please keep reading and please continue to spread the word.

The special education law blog poll has just ended. Remember these are not intended to be read as scientific or anything approaching scientific; but they are fun, and they do show what our readers are thinking. The current question was what is the most important trait for a special education hearing officer. The winner was Knowledge of the Law with 20 votes, upsetting the long time leader Fairness, which came in second, just one vote behind. Next was Training with 13 votes, closely followed by Common Sense with 12 tallies. The bottom three spots were held by Conscience with 8 votes; Experience 7 votes and Firmness with 6 votes. Frankly, I think that firmness should demand a recount, but that's just my opinion.

The next poll will deal with the upcoming supreme court case dealing with whether a student must receive special ed in a public school before his parents may claim reimbursement of a unilateral placement.

Our new Facebook special education law group continues to be popular. On February 19th I did a post celebrating the groups 100th member. As of this morning, just nine days later, the group now has 142 members. Please check out the group and join the fun at this link.

For those who use Ning, please checkout the brand new Ning special education law group. You can check it out through this link. My tech savvy friends are going to have to help me figure out how or why to use this group.

Concerning the twitter link to this blog, you can see my mini-posts or tweets on the twitter feed on the left hand side of the blog. I'll explain the test anxiety tweet in an upcoming post. I mad that tweet with my cellphone. This new technology is just amazing! Also, for twitter users, please take a look at the new twitter special education law group via this link.

Latest Federal Regulations - Parental Consent: Part I

The federal Office of Special Education Programs made several changes to the federal IDEA regulations effective on December 31, 2008. I dont know about you, but I'm always suspicious of changes made by a federal agency when an administration has one f
oot out of the door.

Anyway, the analysis of comments to the proposed regulations by OSEP is available online at this link. Among the changes were the following:

Parental Consent

34 C.F.R. Sections 300.300 and 300.9 were amended to provide that parents are now permitted to revoke in writing their consent for the continued provision of special education and related services after having received services. School districts are no longer able to use mediation or a due process hearing to seek to override or challenge the parents' lack of consent. School districts will not be deemed to be in violation of the ACT for denial of FAPE where the parent has revoked consent to the continued provision of special education and related services. First I'm going to quote some of OSEP's analysis. remember that comments by an agency are entitled to "some deference," but not the force and effect of law as a regulation would get.

In response to comments that the IEP Team and not the parents should make such decisions, OSEP said:

Discussion: We agree with the commenters that the IEP Team (defined in § 300.23, which includes the child's parents) plays an important role in the special education decision-making process. For example, through the development, review and revision of the child's IEP, the IEP Team determines how to make FAPE available to a child with a disability. However, the IEP Team does not have the authority to consent to the provision of special education and related services to a child. That authority is given exclusively to the parent under section 614(a)(1)(D)(i)(II) of the Act. The Secretary strongly believes that a parent also has the authority to revoke that consent, thereby ending the provision of special education and related services to their child. Allowing parents to revoke consent for the continued provision of special education and related services at any time is consistent with the IDEA's emphasis on the role of parents in protecting their child's rights and the Department's goal of enhancing parent involvement and choice in their child's education. We expect that after a parent revokes consent for the continued provision of special education and related services, the parent will continue to work with the child's school to support the child in the general education curriculum. Parents of nondisabled children serve as partners in their children's education in the same manner as parents of children with disabilities. We agree that an IEP Team meeting should be convened if any member of the IEP Team, including a parent, believes the child is not progressing. Section 300.324(b)(1)(i) and (ii)(A) requires each public agency to review a child's IEP periodically, but not less than annually, and revise the IEP as appropriate to address any lack of expected progress. However, the review of a child's IEP by the IEP Team does not replace a parent's right to revoke consent for the continued provision of special education and related services to his or her child.Concerning the comment that revoking consent should be treated differently than refusing to provide initial consent because the parent is seeking to terminate special education services that are presently provided, thus seeking to change the status quo and the comment expressing concern about revoking consent for a child whose current placement is in a residential setting, we appreciate that there are differences between consent for special education and related services and revocation of such consent. However, at their core, both issues entail a parent's decision of whether a child will receive special education and related services. Thus, section 614(a)(1)(D)(i)(II) and (ii)(II) of the Act,which provides a parent unilateral authority to refuse special education and related services, informs our decision on the related issue of revocation of consent for the continued provision of special education and related services.

73 Fed Register No. 231 at page 73009 (12/1/2008).

We'll continue with more OSEP analysis in a future post. What do you think of this change so far?


Interview with Top Federal Education Official - What Would You Ask?

I just requested an interview with Education Secretary Duncan or one of his assistant secretaries. What do you think - will I get an interview?

I suspect that it is a long shot. Although I'm very pleased that this blog has a rapidly growing number of subscribers and readers, it is still a relatively small fish in the large world of the news media.

But let's dream for a minute here. (I'm a Chicago Cubs fan, I have to be optimistic!) Suppose that I do get the interview, I have a good idea of many of the questions I would ask. A partial list of questions is at the end of this post, but I need your help. What would you ask the top brass at the federal Department of Education if you had a chance? Please let me know what questions you would like to have answered. If I am lucky enough to get an interview, I will include some of your questions during the interview.

Here are the questions on the top of my mind:
1. What changes are you likely to propose or support when IDEA is reauthorized.

2. In 1982, the U. S. Supreme Court decided the case of Board of Education of Hendrick Hudson Bd. of Ed. v. Rowley 455 U.S. 175, 102 S.Ct. 3034, 553 IDELR 656 (1982). In that seminal case, the high court set the standard for the majority of special education cases by defining what a school district must do in order to provide a free and appropriate public education ("FAPE). The standard is that an IEP must provide some meaningful educational benefit. Should the Rowley standard be changed?

3. Will you propose or support any legislative changes to reverse or modify the decisions by the Supreme Court in recent cases, including Schaffer v. Weast 546 U.S. 49, 126 S.Ct. 528, 44 IDELR 150 (2005)(burden of persuasion on party challenging IEP); Arlington Cent. Sch. Dist Bd. of Educ v. Murphy 548 U.S. 291, 126 S.Ct. 2455, 45 IDELR 267 (6/16/06)(expert witness fess not available to prevailing party in IDEA hearing); or Winkelman by Winkelman v. Parma City Sch. Dist 550 U.S.____, 127 S.Ct 1994, 47 IDELR 281 (5/21/2007) (Parents may proceed without attorney in federal court on IDEA appeal).

4. Would you propose or support any changes in the provisions regarding the awarding of attorney's fees in special education cases?

5. What are your feelings about the Response to Intervention evaluation process? Should it be expanded beyond eligibility for specific learning disabilities?

6. Concerning NCLB, what are your thoughts concerning the principles of accountability, high stakes testing and school sanctions? Would you propose or support any changes to the exceptions for students with severe cognitive disabilities or other students with disabilities for purposes of assessment?

7. What should be the role of the Office of Special Education of the federal Department of Education in interpreting and in enforcing the special education laws?

What Should Be the Federal Role in Education?

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act raises new questions about the role of the federal government in education. For many years, it has been axiomatic, at least among people who are running for office, that education policy decisions should be left to local school boards. Of course over the years this has become less and less true.The stimulus package, however, may cause the demise of the localization of education policy.

The first big involvement of the federal government in school was the compulsory attendance rule. I believe, and I know many who agree, that this nation became a superpower when it forced compulsory education in the 1950s. So much potential was completely untapped when so many kids were not being educated.

Special education was another huge involvement in educational policy. It is illuminating to read the legislative history of the federal special education law, first called the EHA and now called IDEA. Eight million kids with disabilities were not being appropriately educated. before Congress acted. My favorite example of how far we have come is a 1919 decision by the Wisconsin Supreme Court which upholds the exclusion of a student with cerebral palsy from public school because his condition and ailment produced "... a depressing and nauseating effect upon the teachers and school children." Once again, I feel strongly that federal action was necessary.

Other federal involvements include the nutrition programs, which provide the only food some kids get, and the widely acclaimed Head Start program. A more recent, and more controversial involvement is the No Child Left Behind Act. We have certainly not yet reached consensus on NCLB. A recent poll showed roughly one-quarter of the country fits into each of the four categories: repeal it, keep it with major changes, keep it with minor changes, and keep it as it is. Now that is a lack of consensus.

The stimulus law has a lot of money for education. Previous posts have focused primarily upon the special education funding, which I think is great. But the law also contains a five billion dollar fund for education reform. This is somewhat bigger than the sixteen million dollar discretionary fund that previous education secretaries have had. Secretary Duncan plans to use the federal government as a reform agent. This could well cause changes in special education as we know it. Here is a news article.

How do you feel about the role of the federal government in education?

Facebook Special Ed Law Group - Over 100 Members Strong; Other Tech Stuff

Well the new Facebook Special Education Law group that I mentioned a few weeks ago is already over 100 members. If you use Facebook and are interested in the topics we talk about on this blog, please join us. There are some very interesting interchanges on the discussion board and on the wall. Also there are a number of resources contained in the links section. It's a pretty good resource.

As I continue my bold adventures with technology, my soundbite-sized tweets on twitter appear on the left-hand side of this blog. I continue to need practice in using a small number of words. I have also found new ways to post to this blog through email and even by talking into my cellphone. I'm going to save those for conference developments and breaking news when I'm not at my desktop or laptop.

Another minor change: a few people have asked me lately how much a subscription to this blog costs. There is no charge, all subscriptions are free. In fact it helps the credibility of the blog if more people subscribe, so please do so. I have made it clear on the left-hand side of the blog that subscriptions are free.

We remain stuck in fourth place in the Bloggers Choice Awards Education Blog category. Please help us out with a vote by clicking on the button on the left-hand side of the blog. You will have t register and confirm your registration by clicking on an email in order to vote. As many of you know, this blog won first place for best education blog in the 2008 version of the Bloggers Choice Awards. I made a homemade brag badge at the top of the left-hand side of the blog, and if you click on it you'll see a list of all 2008 winners.

One final left side note, the poll concerning the most important trait for a special ed hearing officer only has nine days left to vote. Fairness continues to lead, but knowledge of the law and training continue to gain ground. Common sense is the dark horse. I recognize that these polls are not scientific, but they are fun so we do them. As Governor Blagojevich might say, vote early and often.